Summary: Bea Is for Blended
Bea Is for Blended is Lindsay Stoddard’s fourth middle grade novel. Bea’s mother has married her school arch-nemesis’s father. Bryce (her arch-nemesis) is friends with bullies in Bea’s class and they always make fun of her best friend Maximillian who’s on the autism spectrum. Now, as if it wasn’t bad enough that Bea and Bryce share the exact same birth date, now they’ll also share a house and blended family. In the past, it was always just Bea, her mother, and her grandmother — the Embers girls — and her mother’s friend, Aunt Tam. Now Bea has three step-brothers, two dogs, and a cat, and oh a new sibling on the way!
Besides trying to integrate into a new team at home, Bea is also trying to find her place in her new middle school. She’s played on the boys’ soccer team throughout elementary school, but with the new girl, Aileyanna who’s moved next door to Bea’s family, Bea and A are hoping to start a girls’ soccer team. But there are some issues. Coach Meesely doesn’t think that girls play as well as boys do and he’s refusing to invest in their team. Bea and A’s relationship is also rocky. Bea is judgmental about some of A’s choices, like playing soccer at home in a dress. She’s also worried that A’s soccer skills will mean her losing her midfielder position to A. Can Bea navigate new family dynamics, starting a new soccer team, and finding her place on the new team?
I really liked this story. For a book just over 300 pages, it was mostly engaging after a bit of slow start orienting readers to Bea’s life and family. I loved Bea’s family, both new and old. Her mom and Wendell (Bryce’s dad) have a sweet love story and it was nice that all the siblings got along pretty well. Even Bea and Bryce didn’t bicker for too long. I liked all the family scenes and watching the family go about their daily lives.
Aileyanna and Bea get off to a rough start, mostly because of Bea’s biases and jealousy. Bea is an opinionated character and her determination can be a double-edged sword, so I loved watching A persist despite Bea’s rough edges. The girls on the soccer team are a fun bunch and it was nice to see girls work as a team without the stereotypical petty squabbles. A new deaf girl also joins the team, which I thought was excellent disability rep, along with Max, Bea’s best friend.
Coach Meesely’s sexist views were disheartening and frustrating, especially because he was the school principal as well. I loved the realistic way the author handles this plot arc and how the girls and their families mobilize to give their team the best shot at winning. Finally, I loved watching Bryce grow throughout this story; it was definitely as much a coming-of-age story for him as it was for Bea.
Overall: Bea Is for Blended
Bea Is for Blended is a heartwarming book about blending families, team work, unlikely friendships, and community. This middle grade book tackles so many topics almost effortlessly. Set in a small town with a soccer-loving, feisty protagonist, this one is perfect for fans of family stories, sports books, and books with strong female protagonists. You might shed a tear or at least give this one a bear hug when you’re done.
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I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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If you’d like to attend, the virtual launch for Bea is for Blended will be on May 4 (also the pub date)! It’s free, open to the public, and sure to be a fun chat between Lindsey and her local indie bookseller. Plus, great giveaways for educators and students! Sign up here.